I have an occasional need to cut stock of up to 2 inch diameter (or square, shapes differ). I have been thinking of making my life easier and investing in a chop saw. However, recently I came across a phenomenon called a portable band saw. I have never seen this tool first hand. I understand that it is capable of cutting up to 4 inches. It can be operated off-hand or a stand is available which then allows the saw to be used as a chop saw including cutting accurate miters.
All I have seen is pictures of the tools made by various companies and some rave reviews of the same.
Does anyone here have first hand experience with these tools? Can you compare them to chop saws? What are the benefits and limitations?
If this is the saw they call the "portaband" here's my 2 cents worth:
The portable band saw is a great tool. The guys around here started using them about 4 or 5 years ago. I didn't think much of them until I actually tried one. I was immediately sold on the idea. The Porter Cable and Milwaukee brands are the ones I see around here, but I'm sure others work well, too. They cut very agressively. the two I mention are easy to handle and are quite controllable. I asked for and got the Milwaukee "deep throat" (or something like that) 0-300 or so rpm model for Christmas in
2006. One of its first jobs was to make about 20 cuts through 1 3/4" solid steel bar and it works just fine. I don't have the stand for mine, since I already have a 4 X 6 HV band saw and a chop saw. Comparison of portaband to a chop saw: Chop saws are a LOT noisier and dirtier and smellier. Chop saws are more dangerous because of flying sparks. Chop saws don't like thick,wide materials I don't think chop saws take kindly to non ferrous metals, especially soft ones, whereas the band saw doens't really care.
The chop saw I have already comes with a stand and vise. The chop saw can be carried around, but it isn't "portable" in the same way that the portable band saw is... You can't just "lay" it onto the workpiece and pull the trigger. The chop saw's abrasive wheel can go "dull" all of a sudden for various reasons (described and discussed recently on this NG), making you have to stop and dress the wheel before continuing.
The chop saw wins when I have to cut unknown ferrous metals that might be hard. One can destroy a saw band in a few seconds on hardened steel. It probably would be the saw of choice for cutting dirty, rusty stuff that would destroy a band saw blade. Also, it would be better for cutting real thin material where you'd have less than 2 teeth in the work, such as rusty exhaust pipe.
After writing the above, I'm not too sure why I still have my chop saw, but the boys do seem to prefer it when working on old cars.
I use my 4 X 6 HV band saw more than any other metal cutting tool that I have. It is permanently set up in my metal shop. I put things into it, throw the switch and come back when it is done and has shut itself off.
If you get a band saw of any type or mfr, buy ONLY the best blade that you can get. Cheap blades are NOT a "deal". I use the Doall Imperial
101, but I'm sure other companies have high qulity bi-metal blades to offer, too. Unless you will be cutting thin tubing on a regular basis, I'd use a tooth count of 10 to 14 teeth per inch.
I do a lot of fabrication type work and started out with a chop saw. Later, I bought a Portaband handheld bandsaw. I built a miter stand for the Portaband and it is great! I hae not used the chop saw since I got the band saw.
The other gentleman raised some good points about the use of a chop saw for cutting very hard or unknown materials, but I work with new stock almost completely.
The kerf width with a chop saw is around 1/4", often tapered and varies as the blade wears. A bandsaw in a stand cuts a constant width, straight kerf that is about 1/16" wide.
The chop saw is really noisy and sprays a large fan of sparks, making it difficult to use inside. A bandsaw is relatively quiet and does not spray sparks. Quiet is good for me becuase I live in the desert and if I am working in the summer, it is usually at 4:00 AM and quiet tools keep neighbor problems down.
If major portability is not a requirement, I think I would look at one of the small horizontal bandsaws. I tried the Portaband without a stand and found it very difficult to get accurate, straight cuts. With the stand, the Portaband is really a small horizontal bandsaw. Maybe buying one that is already set up would have been a better idea?
I have a portaband and a stand would be handy from time to time - I looked on milwaukee's site and didn't see anything - is there a picture anywhere of what they look like? (anyone got a spare one on the left coast?)
I use one of those cheap $250 metal cutting bandsaws. Change out the blade for a bi-metal one and never look back. If somethings too big for the band saw, like plate, I use a 4 1/2 inch grinder with a cutting wheel. The chop saw will be faster and cheaper than the bandsaw, but makes a lot of noise, sparks and grinding dust (both from the cutting wheel and the metal being cut. For me the bandsaw/grinder with a cutting wheel makes more sense.
Not for 2" (or more) solid bar. The Milwaukee bandsaw goes thru that much faster than a chop saw, and even than some horizontal bandsaws. The difference there may have been in the blades, but I run a good bimetal blade in my vertical bandsaw and it still doesn't cut round barstock nearly as fast as the Milwaukee.
As Spaco noted, good blades make a huge difference. Milwaukee blades are excellent.
I would like to thank all those who took time to reply in very helpful detail.
The noise, dust and sparks consideration is not something I thought about much. Even more important is the aspect of the uneven kerf which would render cutting accurate mitres difficult and defeat the purpose of the tool. I cut both ferrous and non-ferrous, BTW, and some of the parts are quite small.
To summarize, the better options than a chop saw would be:
1) A band saw in a mitre stand
2) A "cool" cutting circular saw
The thing that puzzles me is that none of the major tool suppliers here (Canadian Tire, Home Depot, House of Tools, Home Hardware, Rona) seem to carry portable band saws. I shall have to travel further afield to see one.
Floor space is at a premium for me. I've been pining away for a horizontal but worried about the space. I think the Milwaukee (linda blair model) will soon have a place in my shop.
I've used a Milwaukee portaband at work many times. It is an impressive tool. Heck, I just remembered, I have a sawsall in the shop. I almost bought a hacksaw to slit a coupler I was making before I decided to go over to uncles and use his 4x6. I could have used my sawsall and saved the trip.
Floor space was and is an issue for me too. I've had my Milwaukee nearly 10 years now and I still grin every time I use it. It seems to work better than it would be reasonable to expect. Can't say that about many tools!
1) Bandsaws a) House of Tools do a Makita "kit" (portaband). Our local store did not have one last time I looked. b) House of Tools do a band saw on a stand - it cuts 4x6. It takes up a fair bit of space, but costs "only" $299. c) EBay has a glut of portable band saws of uncertain manufacture - all new, all about $60. Would this be a good option if one put in it a good quality blade?
2) Dry-cut saws a) Home depot sells two dry-cutting saws - RAGE 2 and RAGE 3. The RAGE 2 looks like a standard dry -cut machine. RAGE 3 looks like a common or garden mitre saw but with a TCT blade is said to cut everything (within reason). Either saw sells for $275.
The one thing that puzzles me about the dry-cut saw, and could potentially be a problem, is that all manufacturers recommend to start cutting at the narrowest part of the work piece, i.e. the opposite to band saws. They recommend, e.g., that square stock be clamped with one of the corners facing upwards, flat stock the narrow side up etc. I wonder how absolute this requirement is: If followed, almost no mitre cuts could be done on anything with square or rectangular profile.
Does anyone have a view on this (or the items above)? If I could not cut mitres I would definitely lean towards a band saw, however attractive a cheap dry-cut saw would be in terms of space saving.
If you want to cut solid bar stock >1" sq or dia, a bandsaw would definitely be the best choice. The cold saw (e.g. Rage3) will do angles and tubes just fine. It is obviously intended to do miters and does them well. With a bandsaw you can get some blade wander when cutting miters while the cold saw blade is considerably stiffer.
Note blade costs and number of cuts expected per blade. Cost per cut will be much higher with the cold saw. Good bimetal bandsaw blades are not costly (7 or 8 bux, 3 for under $20) and they last an amazingly long time when cutting mild steel, ally, etc. The key is to match the blade to the material, always having at least 2 teeth in the thinnest part of the cut or you may knock the teeth right off the blade. With thick stock a coarser pitch cuts considerably faster. A blade change in a portable bandsaw takes about 10 seconds and no tools.
You're not misinterpreting the manuals. But take that as a recommendation rather than as cast in stone. Consider: a cross cut or miter cut on a cylinder starts with a point of contact rather than a line, right? Ya just start lightly (light blade pressure) until there's enough of a cut that several teeth are engaging.
When cutting square or angle stock, it works best if you can start it on a face rather than an edge or corner. It may not be possible to do this perfectly if the saw is mounted on a pivot as in a mitre fixture. It still works.
Something like the Rage3 might be the best choice for making lots of miter cuts in angle or tube, if you don't mind short blade life (175 cuts or so according to the website) and high blade cost. The bandsaw will be more versatile, blades last well and are cheap. I have no problem making freehand miter cuts to a chalkline that are absolutely good enough for weldments -- but they're probably not as precise as those made with a miter cold saw.
If I were doing a paid job with lots of miter cuts in steel and productivity and time were more important than blade cost, I'd go with something like the Rage3.
175 cuts per blade? That is significantly different from that quoted by the other dry-cut saw manufacturers (Milwaukee, DeWalt) - they are talking in terms of 1000 cuts+ per blade. That does make a difference...
Id have to dispute that. When cutting angle, I always lay it wide side down so it looks like an upside down V "^" and ease into the cut.
It cuts much faster, has better chip clearance and runs cooler.
When cutting a flat or rectangular piece, I generally place a block, rod or bar under the side closest to the driven wheel, so the stock lays at an angle "\", for the same reason, its cutting and dropping chips quickly, blade is not in the cut for so long and runs cooler.
Shrug..and my blades last a long time.
Political Correctness is a doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical liberal minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.
I've cut a lot of overhead stuff down at work. Sometimes I have to use a sawsall but If I can do it with the portaband, it is my first choice. I
*WILL* have one before this year is done. Square inches of cut vs price for the two are not worth comparing, even if you shoot oil on the blade using the sawzall (it helps). A Supersawsall with the 1.5" stroke is best sawsall fo metal but it sucks for capentry, there the normal .75 stroke one rules. Hard to cut out a stud if the blade leaves the cut.
-- "Additionally as a security officer, I carry a gun to protect government officials but my life isn't worth protecting at home in their eyes." Dick Anthony Heller
On Wed, 23 Apr 2008 16:54:13 -0400, with neither quill nor qualm, Don Foreman quickly quoth:
Izzat the one with the fully articulating head or the one which projectile barfs on you when you preach at it?
-- Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life. -- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1811